Friday, February 09, 2007

Joys of Motherhood.

I wake up at 5:46 to the bird like calls of 41/2 week old Jelly. As I force open my eyes, she advances to an all out rage. My sleep deprived mind tries to recall the "baby whisperer" cry interpretations. What did "err" mean or is it "eh?" To hell with it I pop her on my boob. No luck she squirms and fights.

OK... I hold her up and pat her back. She burps, looks at me...I can see the bottom lip quiver...Here it comes! WAHHHH! Lets try the diaper. I go to change her and that seems to help at least she is not fussing. I pick her up and her head begins to rhythmically bob up and down on my chest. She IS hungry. I try feeding her again and slowly drift off to sleep. My eyes must have been closed for 10-15 minutes at least...Before the alarm goes off. This time I drag myself over to hit the snooze bar and lie back down, here it goes again BEEP BEEP BEEP.

Ok already, I get up, and go to take my shower. I start the water looking anxiously over my shoulder at the sleeping Jelly...I undress slowly, no sudden moves, I step into the shower and wham! She is up and crying again. Quickly I shower, pat myself dry...well mostly dry...get dressed and go over to her. She has a dirty diaper again. I grab a clean diaper and carefully place it under her as I remove the dirty one and wipe her bum. I pull the clean diaper into place when she explodes again. Part of me wants to continue with the new diaper pretending I don't notice the mustard colored masterpiece, but I don't. I get another new diaper wipe her bottom and pull the soiled one out from underneath her. I am quick this is my 3rd child, but obviously not quick enough, in the short time she has had her diaper completely off she has managed to pee on her night night clothes. Now I strip her naked- except for the 3rd diaper in 5 minutes. Might as well give her a bath now rather than later. I fill up her portable bath tub and gentle sponge bathe her, dry her, and dress her.

Crap it is 7:10 and Peanut and Jelly have to get ready to go to school.
Now that Jelly is cleaned and fed she drifts off to sleep while I go and wake her sisters. Funny neither one wants to get up... They dress and we go downstairs and have a nutritious breakfast (of frosted flakes) in front of the T.V. (how many parenting rules am I breaking?) While P and B eat, I get Jelly downstairs and put her in her jacket and car seat. Then P and B get their hair brushed and backpacks together to the sound of their mom in a constant chant of "Hurry up ..we are going to be late!" I pack everyone into the car, drop off P at the elem. school and B at preschool. Take a deep breath, and drive home.

As I walk back into the house, I collapse on the couch.
Of course Jelly is now wide awake and hungry. I pick her up and she nurses quietly. When she is finished I burp her.
She looks up at me with these angelic eyes and I remember how blessed I am...
even as she propels a stream of milk down my chest.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Modern Love

I came across this on another Blog Site and had to share it. We can all learn something about relationships from wild animal trainers.

Modern Love
What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage
By AMY SUTHERLAND

As I wash dishes at the kitchen sink, my husband paces behind me,
irritated. “Have you seen my keys?” he snarls, then huffs out a loud
sigh and stomps from the room with our dog, Dixie, at his heels,
anxious over her favorite human’s upset.In the past I would have been right behind Dixie. I would have turned
off the faucet and joined the hunt while trying to soothe my husband
with bromides like, “Don’t worry, they’ll turn up.” But that only made
him angrier, and a simple case of missing keys soon would become a
full-blown angst-ridden drama starring the two of us and our poor
nervous dog.

Now, I focus on the wet dish in my hands. I don’t turn around. I don’t
say a word. I’m using a technique I learned from a dolphin trainer.

I love my husband. He’s well read, adventurous and does a hysterical
rendition of a northern Vermont accent that still cracks me up after
12 years of marriage.

But he also tends to be forgetful, and is often tardy and mercurial.
He hovers around me in the kitchen asking if I read this or that piece
in The New Yorker when I’m trying to concentrate on the simmering
pans. He leaves wadded tissues in his wake. He suffers from serious
bouts of spousal deafness but never fails to hear me when I mutter to
myself on the other side of the house. “What did you say?” he’ll
shout.

These minor annoyances are not the stuff of separation and divorce,
but in sum they began to dull my love for Scott. I wanted — needed —
to nudge him a little closer to perfect, to make him into a mate who
might annoy me a little less, who wouldn’t keep me waiting at
restaurants, a mate who would be easier to love.

So, like many wives before me, I ignored a library of advice books and
set about improving him. By nagging, of course, which only made his
behavior worse: he’d drive faster instead of slower; shave less
frequently, not more; and leave his reeking bike garb on the bedroom
floor longer than ever.

We went to a counselor to smooth the edges off our marriage. She
didn’t understand what we were doing there and complimented us
repeatedly on how well we communicated. I gave up. I guessed she was
right — our union was better than most — and resigned myself to
stretches of slow-boil resentment and occasional sarcasm.

Then something magical happened. For a book I was writing about a
school for exotic animal trainers, I started commuting from Maine to
California, where I spent my days watching students do the seemingly
impossible: teaching hyenas to pirouette on command, cougars to offer
their paws for a nail clipping, and baboons to skateboard.

I listened, rapt, as professional trainers explained how they taught
dolphins to flip and elephants to paint. Eventually it hit me that the
same techniques might work on that stubborn but lovable species, the
American husband.

The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I
should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t. After all,
you don’t get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by
nagging. The same goes for the American husband.

Back in Maine, I began thanking Scott if he threw one dirty shirt into
the hamper. If he threw in two, I’d kiss him. Meanwhile, I would step
over any soiled clothes on the floor without one sharp word, though I
did sometimes kick them under the bed. But as he basked in my
appreciation, the piles became smaller.

I was using what trainers call “approximations,” rewarding the small
steps toward learning a whole new behavior. You can’t expect a baboon
to learn to flip on command in one session, just as you can’t expect
an American husband to begin regularly picking up his dirty socks by
praising him once for picking up a single sock. With the baboon you
first reward a hop, then a bigger hop, then an even bigger hop. With
Scott the husband, I began to praise every small act every time: if he
drove just a mile an hour slower, tossed one pair of shorts into the
hamper, or was on time for anything.

I also began to analyze my husband the way a trainer considers an
exotic animal. Enlightened trainers learn all they can about a
species, from anatomy to social structure, to understand how it
thinks, what it likes and dislikes, what comes easily to it and what
doesn’t. For example, an elephant is a herd animal, so it responds to
hierarchy. It cannot jump, but can stand on its head. It is a
vegetarian.

The exotic animal known as Scott is a loner, but an alpha male. So
hierarchy matters, but being in a group doesn’t so much. He has the
balance of a gymnast, but moves slowly, especially when getting
dressed. Skiing comes naturally, but being on time does not. He’s an
omnivore, and what a trainer would call food-driven.

Once I started thinking this way, I couldn’t stop. At the school in
California, I’d be scribbling notes on how to walk an emu or have a
wolf accept you as a pack member, but I’d be thinking, “I can’t wait
to try this on Scott.”

On a field trip with the students, I listened to a professional
trainer describe how he had taught African crested cranes to stop
landing on his head and shoulders. He did this by training the leggy
birds to land on mats on the ground. This, he explained, is what is
called an “incompatible behavior,” a simple but brilliant concept.

Rather than teach the cranes to stop landing on him, the trainer
taught the birds something else, a behavior that would make the
undesirable behavior impossible. The birds couldn’t alight on the mats
and his head simultaneously.

At home, I came up with incompatible behaviors for Scott to keep him
from crowding me while I cooked. To lure him away from the stove, I
piled up parsley for him to chop or cheese for him to grate at the
other end of the kitchen island. Or I’d set out a bowl of chips and
salsa across the room. Soon I’d done it: no more Scott hovering around
me while I cooked.

I followed the students to SeaWorld San Diego, where a dolphin trainer
introduced me to least reinforcing syndrome (L. R. S.). When a dolphin
does something wrong, the trainer doesn’t respond in any way. He
stands still for a few beats, careful not to look at the dolphin, and
then returns to work. The idea is that any response, positive or
negative, fuels a behavior. If a behavior provokes no response, it
typically dies away.

In the margins of my notes I wrote, “Try on Scott!”

It was only a matter of time before he was again tearing around the
house searching for his keys, at which point I said nothing and kept
at what I was doing. It took a lot of discipline to maintain my calm,
but results were immediate and stunning. His temper fell far shy of
its usual pitch and then waned like a fast-moving storm. I felt as if
I should throw him a mackerel.

Now he’s at it again; I hear him banging a closet door shut, rustling
through papers on a chest in the front hall and thumping upstairs. At
the sink, I hold steady. Then, sure enough, all goes quiet. A moment
later, he walks into the kitchen, keys in hand, and says calmly,
“Found them.”

Without turning, I call out, “Great, see you later.”

Off he goes with our much-calmed pup.

After two years of exotic animal training, my marriage is far
smoother, my husband much easier to love. I used to take his faults
personally; his dirty clothes on the floor were an affront, a symbol
of how he didn’t care enough about me. But thinking of my husband as
an exotic species gave me the distance I needed to consider our
differences more objectively.

I adopted the trainers’ motto: “It’s never the animal’s fault.” When
my training attempts failed, I didn’t blame Scott. Rather, I
brainstormed new strategies, thought up more incompatible behaviors
and used smaller approximations. I dissected my own behavior,
considered how my actions might inadvertently fuel his. I also
accepted that some behaviors were too entrenched, too instinctive to
train away. You can’t stop a badger from digging, and you can’t stop
my husband from losing his wallet and keys.

PROFESSIONALS talk of animals that understand training so well they
eventually use it back on the trainer. My animal did the same. When
the training techniques worked so beautifully, I couldn’t resist
telling my husband what I was up to. He wasn’t offended, just amused.
As I explained the techniques and terminology, he soaked it up. Far
more than I realized.

Last fall, firmly in middle age, I learned that I needed braces. They
were not only humiliating, but also excruciating. For weeks my gums,
teeth, jaw and sinuses throbbed. I complained frequently and loudly.
Scott assured me that I would become used to all the metal in my
mouth. I did not.

One morning, as I launched into yet another tirade about how
uncomfortable I was, Scott just looked at me blankly. He didn’t say a
word or acknowledge my rant in any way, not even with a nod.

I quickly ran out of steam and started to walk away. Then I realized
what was happening, and I turned and asked, “Are you giving me an L.
R. S.?” Silence. “You are, aren’t you?”

He finally smiled, but his L. R. S. has already done the trick. He’d
begun to train me, the American wife.

Amy Sutherland is the author of “Kicked, Bitten and Scratched: Life
and Lessons at the Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers” (Viking,
June 2006). She lives in Boston and in Portland, Me.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Peanut's recovery

Peanut's surgery went well. She is doing fine. The day we came home she was able to eat a hotdog which amazed Big Poppa and I. When my hubby had his tonsils out he was unable to talk much less eat. She has been a little grumpy (to be expected) and a little stir crazy. The only thing that has really perked her up is shopping. Go figure. She is a true girl!!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Tonsils and Adenoids

It has been a while since I have written anything. We have been on vacation with family, finishing up school etc. Today Peanut is going in for a Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy. Even though I know they are routine procedures, I am a worried mom - up too early to go to the hospital but too wound up to sleep. We have talked about the surgery for weeks now, so Peanut knows what to expect. Yesterday she told us she needed to eat all the "junk food" she could because it would be a while before she would be up to eating it again! As she slept last night, I laid down with her to cuddle her. It is hard to believe how much she has grown in 51/2 years, and yet she still seems so little to me. In a few minutes I will have to get her up to go. I know everything will be alright, it is just the waiting that seems to last forever. Please keep us in your prayers.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Do you believe in ghosts? part 2

I must confess. The picture in the last blog is not mine. It is one my mom had sent in an email of "great pictures" but I felt it was appropriate. Where was I...oh yeah unexplained events...
When I was in college, I had a paper route. Every morning beginning at 3:00 AM I would be out delivering papers in a local neighborhood. The neighborhood I delivered in had a lot of request for the papers to be placed on the porch, so I would walk most of my route. One morning, between 4 and 5, I noticed a car pull up in front of my next house. Did you ever get that gnawing feeling that something was not right? It was not too unusual for people to be out that early-but I got that sick feeling inside. Instead of stopping and delivering the paper, I decided to drive by and come back to the house later. I never would have expected what happened next. The car started to follow me. As I got faster they got faster...until we ended up in a "chase" through the neighborhood. At one point I could see the people in the car and it was 3 guys. One of them was so drunk (or whatever) that his head was resting on the open window rolling back and forth with the movement of the car. I couldn't tell you how it happened, but I ended up driving in reverse down a main road. Fortunately, the driver of the other car ended up crashing into some bushes. I still wonder what milk carton I would be on now if I had gotten out of the car that morning.
OK I am sure you are saying - what does this have to do with ghosts? Well, I told you I have had some unexplained things happen to me, but I didn't say I think it is from a ghost. I believe I have a guardian angel and when I was 9 I saw him.
I can remember being up late one night during a terrible thunderstorm. The kind where the lightning and the thunder are right on top of each other, and each crack you feel like the house is going to fall apart. I was lying in bed-covers up to my neck- and I found myself repeating my prayers over and over again. Have you ever done that when you are scared? As I was lying there, a bright flash of lightning lit up my room and there on my wall I saw the image of a shepard -in cloaks and with a staff. It was brief- just a second- and yet I have never been able to forget that image-or the feeling that came over me. I felt comforted. It seems like minutes later the storm stopped and I fell asleep.
I still believe that angel is watching over me and when I think back to that night babysitting, or that feeling of not getting out of the car, I know he is. There have been so many times that I have not used good judgement or gotten into scary situations yet something has always seen me through. Even now, I find when I am sad or scared God sends me what I need. When I look at my children I know He is there.
Do I believe in ghosts? Sure- I believe there are all kinds of things that I can not understand yet I accept. But for me- more than ghosts- I believe in angels and in the power and protection of God. I have added another picture that is from the email my mom sent. To me this is God at work.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Do you believe in Ghosts?


This weekend I had an opportunity to go on a ghost tour with a friend named "D". As we walked along the streets, a guide in Colonial costume, told us about spirits that had unfinished business.
Our guide had worked in a historic tavern for over ten years as a manager. She was a believer. She told us about booted footsteps coming from an empty room. A doorknob turning and a door opening as she and her daughter sat and watched. The most disturbing story for me was one of an cloaked black figure she saw out of the corner of her eye. It was hovering over another employee of the tavern, and she believed it to be an evil spirit. When she told the employee of the sighting, the employee interpreted it differently. She said that it was a deceased friend of here's that had been a nun. Before the nun had passed she had promised to watch over her as a "guardian angel." I liked the second explanation of the cloaked figure better.
When I was 11, I was babysitting with a friend of mine at her house. Her name was "J" and she was 12 at the time. She had 2 younger brothers. We were playing a game of hide and go seek. The boys were hiding and J and I were looking all over for them. There was a den on the back end of her house. It was one of those rooms that did not have a light switch in the front. In order to turn on the light you had to go through the room to the back wall. Well it was dark and I can remember debating with J on who was going to go into the room and check for the boys. We decided to send in the dog- a brave and sensible thing to do. Her family had found her dog when they were camping. She was a stray and we had always said she was part wolf. Whether that was true or not I don't know, but that is what we believed. We sent "Sandy" the dog into the room. She went in, made a loud yip, and came out limping with her tail between her legs. Well that was enough for us. Frantically we called for the boys until they answered us. They had been hiding in the bathroom the whole time. We quickly sent everyone upstairs, and we all went to bed.
Shortly after, J and I were lying in bed waiting for her parents to come home. We heard a knocking sound downstairs and when I asked J what it was, she said sometimes her garage door sticks. So we waited, after a while the knocking sound stopped, but no parents came in. We decided to call a neighbor to come over and just check everything out - remember after Sandy's strange behavior we were still a little freaked out. The neighbors came over and did not see anything, but when we tried to open the front door to let them in the door stuck. Someone or something had smashed in the deadbolt. That was the knocking sound we had heard. Do you have goosebumps yet....I do.
I believe Sandy's behavior was brought on by something so we would go to bed. If we had been downstairs who knows what would have happened. Thank goodness we didn't open the door. But that is not the only time something unexplained has kept me safe. More to come....
PS Check out the bed in the picture above.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Saturday

Well today is Saturday. It is 5:00 and I am still in my pajamas. Jelly has strep throat so we are having a "girls" weekend while daddy and peanut go camping. May sound like a bum deal, but did I mention I am still in my pajamas?
Jelly and I slept late today. She is not much of a pjs girls so when we got up she put on her best princess outfit complete with pantyhose and high heels. We ate breakfast in front of the TV and watched Disney until our minds turned to mush. We practiced our ballroom and swing dancing (jelly is a great dance partner-very light on her feet, especially when mommy is holding her.) We have finished our home manicure and pedicure and now must decide on what color polish. Will it be pearl or bubble gum pink? Tough decision. Either way my nails will be a Jelly original much like my hair style today. After our nails are dry we are planning a pizza picnic while previewing the latest Dora film. And for dessert, we are raiding the ice cream- she has a sore throat after all.
Today reminds me of how much I love being a mom, and what a cool 4 year old I have. I love spending time with her, even when she is sick. Tomorrow I will get back into the "routine," but today Jelly is coming downstairs with what looks like Bubble gum pink polish in her hands. Tomorrow I will do the dishes and the laundry, tomorrow...maybe.